Attention1 Stay tuned for a major announcement toward the end of this blog.
It’s not game day Friday, it’s not even close. But Carol and I spent the weekend watching a relatively new online iPad game, We Farm, where one player surged from the middle of the pack to rule the leader board roost in a mere three days. Now that’s about as exciting as digital gaming on the internet gets.
If you like We Rule and similar social networking games you will probably like We Farm. If you hold those games in the same contempt you hold Dungeons and Dragons or beer pong, you probably won’t.
And if today’s review seems familiar it’s because you probably read the identical review several weeks ago when I wrote about We Rule. We Farm is We Rule Lite. But on a farm. I just saw this classic battle as an excuse to take the day of and make it look like live journalism coverage.
- Is almost exactly the same game as We Rule but with less stuff to build and buy
- It’s very easy to learn
- Can help you master the strategies of its more complex counterpart
- Can help you start building the social network you need for other games
Here’s the flip side:
- It lacks the depth of We Rule
- If you’re not careful it can become a money suck
- It demeans rednecks
- There still aren’t any cats
Friday I received three invitations from We Rule players to join them in a new ngmoco:) game called We Farm. And my immediate reaction was, “Oh, no, another damn game?”
In that moment I had an epiphany. I recalled the night when Carol’s father, a hospital administrator who was also collecting a full Colonel’s retirement pay, took us to La Reve in San Antonio. I know there are more expensive restaurants, but this was by and far the most expensive restaurant I had ever visited.
My own father made misers look like big spenders, a trait he picked up from his father and generations of East Texas rednecks who literally built their houses from the wood on their land and joined secret societies (and, rumor has it, distilled liquor every Saturday night before heading off to church with hangovers Sunday morning). Our idea of an expensive restaurant was Wyatt’s Cafeteria where the kids could put pies on their trays before Dad could stop us and the Texas food laws wouldn’t allow him to hand it back.
La Reve featured a full French ten course meal with a different wine to accompany each serving. For someone raised on the idea of dining out as a night at Burger Chef, McDonald’s cheaper competitor, this was almost a religious experience. The dinner cost about three hundred dollars per person.
I know, at this moment, that my liberal friends (at least my liberal friends without money of their own) would say that we should have given that money to the poor. But Henry was a true yellow dog Democrat who believed in Jesus and the Great Society (which may have been why he never made it past Colonel), and I believe the Christian thing to do was to accept the man’s gift and not tell him how to spend his money.
Besides, he tithed more than Carol and I made jointly, so I was able to swallow any liberal guilt in addition to ten fine courses of French dining with wine to compliment each course. And, to be honest, these were small helpings because the food was so rich we would have swooned in diabetic comas after the first three courses had they been served in Denny’s sized portions. (Denny’s was one of those restaurants that was “too rich” for the likes of my family.)
But somewhere after the lamb course, and the sorbet to cleanse our palettes, the server brought the skate wing course (don’t ask because it sounds gross and tasted delicious). He put the tiny plate in front of Henry, who looked up in despair and said, “Oh, no, more damn food?”
I thought he was crazy, but after catching We Rule fever while writing a review last month, and then pushing through from level 14 to 35 in the few weeks since, I finally understood Henry’s despair. It is possible to have take so much pleasure that the thought of even more is overwhelming.
But, these friends all reserved the most expensive shops in my kingdom the minute they opened, so I thought I owed it to them, and my readers, to check it out.
Carol, who had just reached level 30 in We Rule and has been saving up her money to buy the coveted Ruby Citadel, thought I was stupid to start another game. Then she got sucked into it to. That’s how we stumbled onto We Farm and the dramatic race to take the lead that transpired as we tended our tiny little farms.
In addition to the long winded introduction, let me add that I’m really going to enjoy this review because I can pretty much cut and paste from a review of We Rule I did a few weeks earlier. Why? Because We Farm is pretty much We Rule dumbed down, I mean scaled down, for all those We Rule players who don’t have a chance of hell of cracking the top 25 players list. Or even the top 2500.
You might wonder how that’s possible. This is America, and every body has a chance to climb to the top. But We Rule behaves pretty much like the American economic system. While you’re spending thousands of real dollars for mojo to buy the millions of dollars of virtual coins necessary to earn the 17 gazillion experience points that you will need to catch up with the leaders, they’ve earned another 34 gazillion points to keep ahead of you.
This is a basic law of economics. Seventeen gazillion dollars multiplies a lot more quickly than the hundred or so you start the game with.
That’s where We Farm comes in. You still have a chance to spend your way to the top with this free download because when I started working on this review Sunday night nobody had made it to a million experience points yet. By the time I finished the edits Monday night, the leader had closed down for the evening with a million and a half. If she can earn a million and a half over a weekend, so can you.
Carol and I refer to her as “she” because we don’t know ValJK’s real name. We assume Val is either a girl or Val Kilmer spending the money he earned while he was still making movies.
The one lesson I learned from We Rule is, a million and a half easy. You just need to spend most of your day sitting at the iPad turning around orders and growing crops. And be prepared to max your credit card. But you can do it.
Same isn’t bad
Before I go further, let me explain that my comments about We Farm being exactly the same game as We Rule isn’t criticism. My reviewing role model Joe Bob Briggs used to say you can’t have a sequel if it isn’t exactly the same as the first time around. After all, once people prove they’re willing to spend their money on it, why risk changing the product?
Maybe he didn’t say exactly that. Many many years have passed since all the Dallas liberals with too little humor to know he was really a liberal himself ran him him out of the newspaper business. But I’m pretty sure he said something like it.
I also suspect that some of ngmoco:)’s motivation for spinning We Farm off of We Rule is because people kept comparing We Rule to Facebook’s game Farmville. As the comparisons to Farmville began to spread across the internet, there were so many players in We Rule who had passed the highest level of the game millions upon millions of points ago that the developers have had to start coming up with new virtual toys once or twice a week just to keep them interested (and spending money).
In the last couple of weeks We Rule players got a new level (35) which it turns out I had already reached, new plants and also cheese, honey, milliners and red dragons and cartography shops. The last two cost at least a quarter million virtual coins each, or about 50 mojo points, which you can buy for ten dollars. Most players buy the mojo. They also gave players a Hall of Justice with a judge that looks like Rumpole of the Bailey (one of the game designers was watching their old BBC DVDs) and an inn.
The inn has sparked a lot of debate in the Stephens house. I think she’s a hooker attracting johns with a free mug of beer. Carol thinks she’s a medieval barrista with a foaming latte. Since coffee didn’t arrive in Europe until the early 17th century, I think it’s safe to say she’s not a barrista.
But you want to read about We Farm, not We Rule. I simply wanted to set the table.
Bubba raids the kingdom
If you read my review of We Rule, you pretty much know my take on how two games can look so different and be exactly the same. But I know many people will argue the two games are entirely different so let me give those players their due and acknowledge the significant differences between We Rule and We Farm:
- The second word in the games’ names are completely different.
- The windmill in We Rule delivers grain for bread; the windmill in We Farm delivers bread.
- You can speed things along in We Rule with a magical power called “mojo” that you buy from the game site’s store. We Farm has no magical powers, but you can buy a miraculous yet totally scientific formula called “gro.”
- Oh, yes, and gro costs more per unit; $100 real dollars for 900 gro units verses $50 real dollars for 800 mojo units. And the good mojo comes in an aged flask, whereas gro is delivered in a washtub.
- Some of the crops are different.
- The characters in We Rule are wizards, witches and knights. The characters in We Farm are Bubba and a really hot blonde that we seriously hope is his daughter because otherwise that would be totally unjust.
- We Farm has creepier characters, including a clown with a first aid kit and a scarecrow who may be from one of those slasher horror movies and waiting for you to leave the game so he can kill the blonde as soon as she shows some interest in boys.
- The cows roam free in We Rule. Other than Bevo, the orange and white University of Texas mascot and a black longhorn with a ring in his nose, the cows in We Farm are stuck in pens like veal.
- In We Rule, you shop at stores in other players kingdoms. You shop at the Farmer’s market in We Farm.
- We Rule has taverns, but We Farm doesn’t even have beer. I suppose Farmer Bubba has to get in his little green tractor and drive to the We Farm county line to tie one on.
- We Rule grows crops on farms. We Farm is a farm, so you grow crops in gardens.
So clearly when I say We Rule and We Farm are the same game—even if I meant it as a compliment—they’re as far apart at daybreak and sunrise.
Easy to learn
Like it’s predecessor, We Farm is pretty easy to learn. In fact, if you follow the interactive directions, you will find yourself with several gardens, several hundred dollars in the bank, a rusty barn and a house so rickety you almost hope the bank does repossess.
You start out like Ma and Pa Kettle, but with Jessica Simpson instead of Ma
and Pa really likes to scratch his ass.
Once you start visiting the farms of friends who’ve played longer, not only can you buy cool stuff, but you can actually get a few tips on what to do with your farm. The really good players have distinctive styles and strategies and you can learn from them when expanding your farm.
As you grow you can spend your way to a thriving operation with loyal customers
I would go so far to say that the game is far less intimidating because it is still in the early stages of development. Unlike We Rule, which recently expanded to allow players as many as four subordinate kingdoms, We Farm is still pretty much a small scale operation. There are probably a third as many stores, decorative objects and landscaping features to choose from.
Use it as a training exercise for We Rule
The key to both games, as well as the popular Godfinger, isn’t to earn money so much as experience points. You want money to spend on options that will earn additional money, and, more importantly, experience points.
Consider We Farm to be the Minor League Farm club to the Major League We Rule. You can learn how to play the basic strategies in a far less cut throat environment. I estimate that we rule has more than a million and a half players now, although many of them probably abandoned their kingdoms around levels 10 or 15. I would put the number of We Farm players at less than 100,000.
This gives you a considerable advantage. In three days, I’m actually writing this the weekend before I will actually post it. Right now you need about three days to move into the top 1500 with 80,000 experience points. To reach the top 1500 in We Rule you would need several weeks of non-stop play and more than three million points.
In this weekend’s dramatic showdown my former friend ValJK, moved from the middle of the pack in We Farm to number one in the world in a single weekend. Actually, she’s still my friend, but she’s been so busy turning around orders from her farm and kingdom she no longer has time to drop by mine to buy anymore.
ValJk started the weekend around level 18 and moved into first place Monday.
I’m at the cusp of 1200 after three days, much higher than my We Rule ranking after months.
This is a hazard of both games. You can get caught up in the competition, which really undermines the concept behind a friendly social network.
Of course, you have to use the word “friends” in the loosest sense since I actually know only two players personally, JennyManytoes and PrincessNoodle. And I don’t mean the Jenny Manytoes who we adopted while fostering her for Siamese Rescue. That Jenny has a space between her names. I bet you can guess who they player using Jenny’s name really is.
Use We Farm to build your network for the bigger games
I know it sounds weird, but people who build game friendships at the earlier levels tend to remain loyal to each other at later levels and in other games. Some of my We Rule friends have been with me for twenty levels and now we’re playing We Farm.
Finding friends in We Rule can be intimidating, but if you build friendships early on, many of those friends will follow you back to the more established games.
The underbelly of We Farm: the Gro addiction
I discussed this issue at length with my We Rule review, but it bears repeating. The game developers have a nasty habit of hanging around in the game’s school yards and play grounds to get you addicted to gro. Think of gro as a combination of digital crack and steroids. Gro is nastier than their earlier drug mana and it’s Godfinger predecessor awe. For one thing, it’s more expensive. For another, you use it faster.
The gap between store prices is much more steep in We Farm than We Rule, with fewer in between options. At one stage the price of objects jumps from 8000 to 25,000 virtual dollars. In addition, you can go two or three levels before you qualify to buy something new while the number of points you have to earn to reach the next level grows exponentially. So you may blow through several levels one day, and not be able to reach the next level for two or three.
That’s when the temptation to buy Gro becomes greatest. The developers give you a taste in the early levels and then they cut back supply as you become better at the game. You can buy 30 hits for $5 but the Gro dealer is waiting to rope you in with the 900 hits for $100. Those are real dollars, earning interest on the credit card whose number you gave the Apple Store.
Even though the game was probably built from the same template as We Rule, it still has buggy moments. The chances of the game locking up increase the more operations you perform during an online session. The game also forced me to sit out of my attempts to help ValJK to the top. It turns out that when two users try to rent the same item at the same time, the code underperforms. Usually it simply refuses to accept either order, but Saturday night a player and I were both trying to rent a windmill. I won, but the windmill never returned my order.
Another player with an orange icon seems to be stuck as well.
It’s too bad really. Val was burning through gro to return orders so fast I could move up a level in three hours just on her orders.
You should still be able to go to ValJK’s farm for the rest of the day and see my icon, Bob Dobbs (the guy with the pipe) on one of the windmills. Val had to continue on without me. She may not even see me there, or understand why the windmill isn’t getting customers.
Still stuck on ValJK’s windmill three days later.
I contacted technical support and they said there was nothing they could do. The order should release itself by Tuesday night. If it doesn’t, she will probably have to sell the windmill for ten cents on the virtual dollar and replace.
But hey, she’s rich in virtual coins now. She can afford it.
Really rude to rednecks
We Rule definitely reminds you of your D&D, SCA and Renaissance Faire friends. But they choose to veer off from the norm. We Farm definitely mocks rednecks and that isn’t nice.
I will admit I’ve spent my entire life trying to distance myself as far from the rednecks in my family as possible. I drive a Honda, I don’t hunt and I will drink liquor with little umbrellas if somebody else pays for it. If I do a bump and a beer, it’s single malt scotch and Samuel Smith’s Porter. If I listen to country music, it’s called Bluegrass and played on Folkways on Austin’s liberal NPR station KUT. Or referenced in a piece by Aaron Copeland. Or refashioned by the Grateful Dead in their albums from the early seventies.
I’ve tried to grok NASCAR, but even formula racing doesn’t do much for me. I just don’t get a charge out of watching trucks with big tires crushing other trucks with big tires. I can listen to Patsy Kline and Charly Pride but Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood leave me cold. I only like Taylor Swift because she’s cute and I’d like her better if she wrote music Lily Allen. At least the first album Lily Allen.
And of course rednecks wouldn’t know what the hell grokking is, and they would steer clear of any one who claimed to do it.
But We Farm does everything to exploit the redneck stereotype short of having the characters drive around in pickups, drinking Shiner beer and shooting at the goats with AK47’s. The only grown up girl looks like Jessica Simpson, the farmer actually stops to scratch his ass (no, I’m serious, watch and see) and the kids are clearly home schooled. And the clown that lurks around the kids just looks creepy. I keep wondering what drugs he’s carrying in that little first aid kit. I can’t help but think he’s supposed to be registered with the local police.
The scarecrow is just wrong. They may be trying to sell the rights to the character for the next serial killer/horror slasher film series: “We Farm: The Nightmare Begins.”
These characters reinforce the stereotype that rednecks end up on wanted posters.
Still no cats. When will they add some cats?
And where are the cats? Jenny Manytoes is really incensed, because farms have cats, even if they’re stringy and lean from chasing rats away. We Rule doesn’t rub the absence of cats in Jenny’s face because the animals are dragons and livestock. But We Farm allows you to train dogs to fetch, roll over and beg. Dogs can win blue ribbons at the live stock shows. There isn’t a cat in sight.
Jenny demands a cat for We Farm, not a show cat or a breeding cat, but a fat happy Siamese cat to sit on the porch, take naps and remind everybody else she’s better than them because she is a cat. If the cat has extra paws, so much the better.
If she doesn’t see some cats she’s threading to delete all of our ngmoco:) games from both iPads. This isn’t an idle threat.
It dawns on me at the end of the review that my attitude has changed considerably toward ngmoco:) games since I first started toying with We Rule to review. I have become a fan. I invested a lot of energy to get past level 35 of We Rule and don’t regret it for a minute.
And now for my announcement
I have even decided to start a We Rule blog in September, in part because so many of my readers are actually We Rule players.
And it’s cheaper to buy mojo than it is to buy all these apps.
But I can’t quite warm to We Farm the way I took to We Rule, mainly because it really doesn’t seem to be as challenging at this stage in its development. And also because I can’t afford to buy both mojo and gro.
Or even if I could, Carol wouldn’t let me.
Jenny Manytoes rates We Farm
Jenny Manytoes would purr over We Farm once they get their act together and include cats. It doesn’t have the depth and complexity of We Rule but it has the potential to grow into something almost as fun.